Why People Win Over Achievement

“I’m learning over and over again that connection heals me more than achievement ever could.” Shauna Niequist

Often times we believe when our dreams come true, everything else will fall into place. That we’ll be content, happy. That we’ll be the person we want to be. Finally.

The shocking truth is it doesn’t happen, Even remotely. Because if you’ve attached your emotional health, your worth to achievement then you are sitting on a rocky foundation. It will be shaken at the first criticism or self-doubt.

With success and achievement come the whispers that you can do more. Be more. It will never be enough, especially if we believe we aren’t enough to begin with.

Why? Because we’ve attached ourselves to a black hole that can never be fed enough. There will always be someone better, faster and smarter. There will always be another level to conquer. Another award to win. It’s become all about us. It’s a ton of pressure.

I’ve been thinking about Shauna Niequist’s quote since I read it a week ago. It was in my Overcomer study on Philippians by Margaret Feinberg.

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Niequist is right but I don’t really want to admit it. It’s a bitterly hard pill to swallow for this introvert and recovering people hater to admit that we need each other. It’s one of the hardest struggles I have in ministry. Sometimes I drift to the “dark side” and think ministry would be so much better if not for the people. We might actually get God’s work done. Oh yeah, that’s right, God’s work is people. Shoot.

Why is connection, key to healing and not achievement? Because it is through people we get glimpses of God, His love for us and his acceptance of us. Achievements, success, more money, awards are momentarily great but they can’t do what people do. Love us. As we are. Achievement always demands more. That we be more. Do more. Acquire more.

Connection is relational. It only requires we engage. That doesn’t necessarily mean talk either. Sometimes it means just listening for our benefit or someone else’s.

 

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Connection is spiritual. I totally believe in kindred spirits. But I also believe connecting to someone totally different than you can be equally as rewarding.

It’s spiritual because it comes from God, who created us for relationship. It also points us back to God.  He’s the only relationship that can totally heal us.  He uses other people to help us down that road and direct us back to him but He is the true physician.  He gifts us with other people and the connection they bring to our hearts.

People who genuinely love us let us be who we are, while at the same time they inspire us to be better. It’s not the same as achievement. They love us even if we hadn’t written a book, got a promotion, won a race. It will never matter what we do. It only matters that we be.

Love. Acceptance. Understanding. Kindness. These are a few of the building blocks to health and healing. Kids who are loved, accepted, and are understood and grow up in a kind environment, usually grow into healthy adults. For those of us who missed out on those things, as adults we can still do ourselves a favour and learn to love, accept and understand ourselves. Be kind to ourselves. It’s never too late to grow into the person we want to be.

If we in return show love, acceptance, understanding and kindness, they can help us on the road to healing. Every time we choose to give them away, we become more of who we were meant to be and that is healthy. If I make the effort to join in and be a part of a group, instead of hiding, I find that my heart gets lighter and my mood better. (Usually 🙂 Knowing you did the right thing too, can certainly make a difference in feeling better about yourself.

How did I learn this? In community. Of. Course.

In many different communities; a course that helped me deal with anxiety, many different churches, MOPS, family and friends. My life is richer because of them all. The awards and accomplishments have added to it too as well as the failures but they fade, the friendships, the love do not.

Maybe I’ll take that pill with a little bit of jam!

 

 

TURN:Why I’m Regretting This Word

I am regretting my one word for the year. Not that it was really my choice. It was the word I felt God gave me for 2016. I know why. It’s hard. I am really bad at TURNING. Bad at TURNING TO in fact. I’m actually very good at TURNING FROM or TURNING AWAY FROM. My back is probably my most well known feature.

The problem is most of the time, I don’t want to TURN TO much. It’s wrapped up in obedience, being open and trusting. Can you relate?

But the thing I realized this past week, is that if I don’t start TURNING TO rather than TURNING AWAY, life isn’t going to change much. It’s fact. The choice is up to me.
The talk is easy. The action, not so much.

There’s been a lot of death around me lately. From my observations, mostly from afar, these people turned to life, to living until it was time. Their families turned to life and living until it was time. And then they turned to death because it isn’t the end. It is a beginning. They turned to the mystery of the unknown. They turned to the Known in the unknown. They have turned to, even though it is hard. That’s what I’ve observed but I don’t know the whole story.

What I see is inspiring though.

It’s made me take stock of what I do with my time and how I interact or don’t, with the people around me. I fritter away the valuables in life. Like tossing out the garbage without a second thought. Although time is important it isn’t everything.

I realize I’ve been doing it all wrong. I have been measuring life by time instead I should have been measuring it by people.

I had mixed feelings about doing something because it was going to take a day to get it done. I didn’t think I could lose a day from a few projects I have due in a few weeks. Then I thought about what it would mean to the people and to me if I did it. It changed my perspective totally. It wasn’t about the time lost. It was about the investment in the people and in myself. By the time it was over, I didn’t even notice the lost time. Because it wasn’t really lost. I had invested well.

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I think if we want to get more comfortable with TURNING TO, we need to use a different filter. We need to drop the lens of time and of productivity. We need to look at people and see the value in them. That productivity isn’t about a task completed but maybe more about seeing relationships deepened or formed. An investment of time and love in a future leader. Making the later, lonelier years more enjoyable for a senior. That’s all productivity on a relational scale. Time well spent. The satisfaction more eternal and deep than checking off a DO TO list. Some of you know this and do it so well. For others of us, it’s a challenge.

Don’t get me wrong; both To Do Lists and investing in people and ourselves are good. They have their place. But I know I’m a little off balance. Maybe I need to even it up a bit and TURN TO life and living, to people and not just tasks and time management.

“We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.” ― Andy Stanley

Wrestling With Community

I cry when I read the Acknowledgement page in a book.

I know it’s weird. Most people, if they are going to cry, sniffle at the storyline, but I always get teary-eyed reading that page at the end of the book, fiction or non-fiction.

If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, the acknowledgment page means you’ve made it. In your hand is the published word. The real deal. Dream become reality.

It makes me emotional, because if you’ve ever written anything of substance, you know you didn’t do it alone. It’s takes a village to bring about a book. And a tribe to launch it.

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It’s this concept that brings me to pause. I resist community. Moving around a lot, makes it hard to establish or find a group of people where you fit. You always feel like the outsider. It’s exhausting trying to find new friends and relationships. When you are an introvert, well, it makes it much more difficult.

If you’ve been hurt by a community, doesn’t it make you want to run the other way? To hold everyone at arm’s length. To trust no one.

It’s so much easier to stay inside with your cup of coffee and a good book.

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A year ago, God began to nudge me about my attitude towards community. I felt He wanted to have a chat about it but I wasn’t interested in engaging in said conversation. Instead I got mad.

It started one Sunday when my husband preached a sermon on this very topic. He was so positive. I was so angry. It made me furious that he could still believe after all the years of experiencing dysfunctional community. What planet had he been on for the last fifteen years?

His positive attitude contrasted with my own negativity. Obviously I hadn’t dealt with a few issues. I stuffed them back down and told God I wasn’t interested.

I felt it was an unfair request. You know the kind, where God’s asking you to do something that goes against every fibre of your being. He knows your experience and still He’s asking you to put yourself out there. Again. How many times do we have to give of ourselves? How many times do I have to tell Him, He made a mistake?

You may recall a bible story about Jacob wrestling with an angel who was in fact God. They struggle all night long until the break of dawn when the angel tells Jacob to let him go. Jacob says he won’t until the angel blesses him. The angel puts his hip out of joint because Jacob won’t let go. God renames Jacob because he had “wrestled with God and come through”. (Genesis, 32:22-32, The Message) He blesses him. Spares his life. Something that is not lost on Jacob as he names the place Peniel because he had come face to face with God and lived to tell about it.

I think the interesting thing here is that Jacob didn’t shy away from the wrestling match. He engaged and fought hard. He wouldn’t let go. On top of that he had the audacity to ask for a blessing. God gave the blessing and spared his life. It makes me think that maybe it’s okay for us to wrestle some things out with God.

Honestly up to now I have been skirting the issue. To actually wrestle something through, you need to be engaged and participating. God doesn’t let it go.

So here I am, reading the acknowledgment pages of my novels, thinking about community. Realizing I have a group of people surrounding me who have continually supported me in my writing endeavours. They are flung far and wide but it is a community nonetheless.

It’s not the communities God wants to talk to me about. I haven’t been ready to go there. Instead our creative, patient, imaginative God serves me up the Acknowledgement page and says, ‘Think about this.”  I have.

At some point there will be a fight. I’m just not sure who it’s against – the fear that surrounds and prevails around the idea of community or with God. Maybe both. We need to take a lesson from Jacob and not let go of God while we struggle through the thing. To hang on until we figure it out and see the blessing of it all.

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In the meantime, the Acknowledgement page from the next book, blinks at me. A silent reminder that this journey we’re on is full of battles, but the One who leads us, knows us intimately and won’t let us go.

Why Shovelling Snow is Important

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  James 2:8 NIV

The boys grew up calling her “Neighbour”.  Seriously, I think they thought that was her actual name.  At first we weren’t sure of her name.  So we would say to the boys, “Say hi to neighbour”.  “Neighbour’s flowers are so pretty” or “Neighbour is out working again”.  Eventually the name stuck.  She even starting signing her Christmas cards to us; From “Neighbour”.

She was a widow who lived next door to us in Windsor.  She was a good neighbour.  We did neighbourly things.  Took in each other’s mail when the other was away.  Mark buried a skunk for her, that died in her back yard.  He would do other odd jobs that she couldn’t do.  Sounds weird but moving away from her was hard.  We hoped the new people would be good to her.

Neighbours can make or break where you live.  Our new neighbourhood has some challenges.  Honestly there was a lot I didn’t like at first.  Over the last two years I’ve tried to move past those things and accept the new normal.  Except the barky dogs and the outside lights shining in our rooms all night, I’ve gotten used to most of it.

I didn’t get off to the best start.  For example most of the kids think I’m a really mean mom.  I’ve lost my temper at the bullying and occasionally at my own two as they pounded each other with their fists.

We have rules and boundaries for our children.  It doesn’t always make us popular with our children or our children popular with other kids.

However after studying the book of James last winter and reading a book about being a good neighbour, I was convicted.  I could do a lot better.  How about friendly to start?

I began small.  Praying for neighbours who had lost loved ones.  There were two houses within doors of us who had lost a spouse and a mother.  Taking a minute to talk to the people who live next to us when we are all outside.  It’s baby steps really but they make a difference.

There are four of us on our street now who kind of look out for each other.  Our neighbour right next door is ninety-four and she lives with her daughter.  I really hope I’m like her at ninety-four!  She looks seventy.  She is spry and sharp as a tact.  Feisty as all get out.

The neighbour across the street is a recent widow.  Cancer cut short what appeared to be a great retirement for these two.  They were friendly and had come right over to our house and introduced themselves.  That’s a rarity these days.  I can’t even imagine how hard this year has been for her.

The two of us try to keep our ninety-four year old neighbour from having to shovel.  I shovel when it’s not deep snow.  Jean* has a snowblower and when it’s a big snowfall, she’s over blowing out Eleanor’s* driveway and our combined sidewalk.  Today I was so grateful as she blew out the rest of my drive that I hadn’t finished yet.  The drifts are so big now that I can hardly get the snow up on them.  We didn’t say much other than “Thank you!” but there was a friendly feeling in the air that inspires me to keep getting to know the people around me.

I believe that’s why we were put on earth.  Jesus didn’t just sit in the temple and preach.  He did on occasion.  More frequently he was going out to the people.  Meeting them in their communities, neighbourhoods, even in their wildernesses.  If we really want to be the church shouldn’t we take Jesus to the people?  In our neighbourhoods, workplaces and schools.  Wherever we go.  Whatever we do.  (I’m writing this more to myself than any of you.  I constanly need to be reminded of this!)  If we are there, then so is Jesus because aren’t we supposed to be his hands and feet?  Speak love.  Shovel snow.

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*Names have been changed.

Finding That Sense of Belonging

Yesterday as I stood talking with some women at church, I felt something I haven’t felt for a very long time.  A sense that I belonged.  That “new girl” feeling was gone!  I wasn’t a stranger trying to make conversation.  Instead, a sense of joy filled me.  

Community.  There are so many sermons, blogs and books on the topic it’s overkill.  My question is: Why is it so elusive, if that many people are talking about it?

Here’s my humble opinion.  Feel free to agree or disagree.

Our world is fairly transient.  People change jobs and move all the time.  It means starting fresh.  I’ve transitioned enough times to know that even going with a label or title such as “THE PASTOR’S WIFE” does not mean instant friends or community.  You may have more introductions and avenues to get to know people but it still takes time.  In my experience, it’s taken at least two to three years to know a new city, church or community.  Not only do you have to get to know the area and it’s people but they have to get to know you!  At the onset of a move you have a lot of time but those around you do not.  Make the most of the time they give you!  Accept it’s going to take a loooong time.  

Churches today are also very transient.  Unlike my Dad, who has gone to the same church for eighty-five years, many people change churches one or two times in their lifetimes.  There are as many reasons for leaving churches as there are people in them!  One complaint I do find interesting is “I don’t really feel like I fit in.”  There is some legitimacy to this. I know the church is flawed because it’s filled with people with flaws.  I know many have left because they didn’t feel accepted based on life choices.  This complaint isn’t coming from people who left because of those reasons.  The complaint is based on purely social reasons and I’m not saying it’s wrong or right.  I get it but before you throw the towel in, listen to “the new girl”: you can’t wait for people to come to you.  YOU HAVE TO REACH OUT to those around you and be willing to be vulnerable.  I know you’re thinking, “That’s not right or fair.  I’m the new person!”  No, it’s not right or fair but it’s how things work.  Consider it part of God’s upside kingdom.  New people have to reach out to those around them.  It’s along the lines that leaders are servants.

I have also used the “I’m an introvert” as an excuse for hiding out.  The whole after church crowd is a nightmarish scenario that I flee from.  The crowds mingling, people trying to talk to you only to get interrupted.  People who know me but I can’t remember their names!  Oh yeah, I run from it most Sundays because I walk away feeling stupid.  I’ve said something that was dumb or couldn’t hear what was said, so I faked like I did which results in a weird glance from the other person.  I called someone by the wrong name.  I find it easier just to leave.  As quickly as possible.

When I kick the “I’m an introvert – I vant to be alone” attitude and make an effort, it ends up being worth it.  A smile goes a long way and that’s really all it takes.  

Community however, doesn’t really form with these fifteen minute after church skirmishes.  I have found that the friends I’ve made in the many different churches I’ve belonged to, I’ve made in groups.  MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), bible studies, committees, Christmas and Easter Productions to name a few.  Most times it didn’t require much work.  It just happened because there was time to get to know each other.  Most of my friends, I met after I’d been at the churches a couple of years.  It really does take time.

The group of women I was having fun talking to yesterday?  We all go to bible study together.  We range in age and life seasons and it makes it all the richer.  They bring the best of me out into the open.  I see the best in them.  Their potential is breathtaking.  We laugh and cry together.  We try to wrap our minds around God’s incredible word that He gave to us.  I have watched as these women have been the physical hands and feet of the Saviour they serve, to other women in the group and out in their own communities.  

As I experienced yesterday, a sense of belonging is a powerful feeling.  It lifts you up.  It brings joy.  It’s what God intended when He built the church as a foundation for His kingdom.  Relationship.  Belonging.  Love.